Power concedes nothing without a demand
May 19, 2002
Letters on powersharing
Mr Deryck Bernard's last two letters have as usual been spot on. Well almost. The problem is that these letters from the progressives in the PNC save for Messrs Sherwood Lowe and Aubrey Norton, always lay out the problem but fail to commit the PNC to rationally solving the problem. Ultimately the PPP is blamed for everything. This is the case with Mr Bernard's last letter (SN, May 16). Mr Bernard says that a visionary and charismatic leader of the government could make the difference in Guyana. Point taken. But what about a visionary and charismatic leader in the PNC? Is Mr Bernard implying that visionaries only make a difference when in government? Is he implying that the PNC is hiding its vision until it gets into office? Must the PPP, because it is in government, politically empower PNC African supporters? In a situation of racial rivalry no side willingly gives anything to the other side, so both sides must show vision.
Guyana has numerous ailments, but everyone but the leaderships of the PPP and PNC recognizes that these are fed and exaggerated by the competition over which side governs. My firm view is that a visionary PNC that articulates and works towards a clear resolution of this vexing question of governance in our racially polarized society is as crucial or even more crucial than a visionary PPP.
While I agree in principle with the sentiment that the government must make the first move, I see no precedent in Caribbean political history where those who hold power willingly move to reduce it. I am guided by the Fredrick Douglass' dictum that power concedes nothing without a demand.
The naked truth is that while despair is abroad among all races in Guyana, Africans, because they have no way to formally influence government, feel more excluded. What are their options - accept their marginalized status until the PNC gets back to power, seize the government by illegitimate means, or share the government with Indians whose despair is muffled because they would rather have a shaky Indian government than another African government. The only sensible option seems to be the third one. Shared governance is then more urgent for Africans than Indians. The PNC must muster the courage and demand what its supporters want- a share in the governance of their country where they can see their representatives making and implementing decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. The PPP will never willingly offer this, but I am sure that if demanded in clear terms, the PPP will be forced by the logic of the situation to concede. The PPP has conceded nothing, because nothing concrete has been demanded of them.
The PNC's failure to seek a shared government sends a scary signal - it either wants African marginalization to continue until the PNC can by some miracle win back power legally or it wants to seize the government illegally. Why do non-PNC people have to continuously say what PNC supporters want, while the PNC skirt the issue? The PNC correctly demands supplementary things such as representation on boards, parliamentary committees, disbandment of the Black Clothes, but never demands the real constitutional and moral due of its African supporters.
The PNC would do African people and Guyana a ton of good if it says two things as clearly as it can: 1) that it has no desire or design to dominate Indians again, and 2) that it does not want its African supporters to be dominated by an Indian government any longer.
There are many in the PNC leadership who scorn any mention of sharing governance because they probably want to get back in office by themselves to do exactly what the PPP is now doing - pay back the opponent. But while they wait for that opportunity their African supporters are turning their alienation and frustration on innocent Indians and in the process they are being consumed by a culture of barbarism.
The PPP is marginalizing Africans, but the PNC, by its refusal to move Africans from their marginalized status to legitimate constitutional inclusion in decision-making, is killing the African psychologically.
The tragedy is that Africans believe that this is all the work of the PPP and its Indian supporters. And the PPP by its arrogance and dumb politics makes this lie appear to be the truth.